A Guide to Choosing Your Best Work Keyboard

What About Computer Keyboard?

Keyboard is an essential input device required to effectively operate a computer. If you rely on a keyboard to carry out your job function, then you have to put utmost care in choosing the kind of keyboard you use. The effectiveness of your keyboard could either increase your productivity yield or mar it.
There are factors you have to consider when deciding on a keyboard to use for your work. The following questions need to be answered by you:

  • How much typing would your work require?
  • What purpose would the keyboard serve; would you need to play games with it, or would you want to use it also for entertainment?
  • How much desk space and flexibility would you want to have with the keyboard?

Now let’s get into a little detail about keyboard structure.

Watch this video:

Types of Computer Keyboards

There are basically two major types of keyboards, namely: membrane keyboards and mechanical keyboards.

Membrane keyboards

A membrane keyboard has rubber dome layer – silicon material – that is called membrane. This rubber dome layer is placed under each of the keys, which serve as the key switch for membrane keyboards. The job of the membrane rubber dome is to resist depression. When a key is pressed down, the rubber dome presses on the circuit layer which registers the pressed key. The membrane rubber dome resume their original position after a user withdraws his finger.

membrane keyboard

Membrane rubber dome layer

Membrane keyboards are quiet when you type on them and they are cheaper too. Many buyers who opt for membrane keyboards do so because of its low price. The downside of this keyboard is that it might easily produce inaccurate typing as its keys may not register if you don’t press all the way down. Withstanding about 10 million key presses in lifespan, they are not as durable as mechanical keyboards.

Mechanical keyboards

Mechanical keyboard

Cherry MX Blue switches in a mechanical keyboard

A Mechanical keyboard has physical plastic switches underneath each of its keys. These switches are equipped with springs which control the balancing of the keys after each press. Mechanical keyboards are more intriguing keyboards as they are versatile and offer different kinds of features. They are enjoyable to type on because of the kind of switch they use; the springs in the switches result in smoother and more linear keystrokes.

Mechanical keyboards offer more accurate typing and better responsiveness. You only need to press the keys halfway for keystrokes to register, resulting in fast typing. These type of keyboards also provide sound and tactile feedback when you press the keys.
Mechanical keyboards are a better choice ergonomically than membrane keyboards, especially for heavy typists and gamers who need low resistant, ultra responsive keys. This keyboard types can withstand over 50 million key presses, making it a much more durable keyboard.
To explain further and to help you understand differences in keyboards I want you to understand what mechanical key switches are.

What is a Key Switch?

Key switch is the mechanism that makes the keys respond to touch. The switch determines the keyboard’s sensitivity, noise level and comfort. Two keyboards from the same model, but with different switch types can feel quite differently. Switches are among the most important part of the keyboard. Choosing the best switch is dependent on preferences.

Types of Key Switches

There are three types of switches based on characteristics. These are:

Cherry switches

Cherry MX Switches Red/Black/Blue/Brown

Linear Switches

Linear switches feel the same way from the moment you start pressing the key until you hit bottom. It produces no tactile feedback or noise when hitting the actuation point (actuation point is the point where the key press gets registered). So most of the time, you will probably press till you hit bottom on each press. This type of switches are used for gaming keyboards. Examples of linear switches include Cherry MX Black and Cherry MX Red.

Tactile Switches

Tactile switches provide tactile feedback when hitting the actuation point. It produces a small bump to let you know that your key is registered when you press down and you do not need to press all the way down. Tactile switches are used for hybrid keyboards; keyboards that serve both as typing keyboards and as well as gaming keyboards. The most popular tactile switches used in many mechanical keyboards are Cherry MX Brown switches. The keyboards provide a tactile feedback but do not produce sound like the Clicky switches keyboard. Keyboards with tactile switch are quite popular in the mainstream due to its minimal sound and tactile feedback.

Clicky Switches

Clicky switches provide clear click sound and bump feedbacks when you press the keys, and like tactile switches you do not need to press all the way down. Keyboards with clicky switches are most favoured by typing enthusiasts, as the keyboards allow for fast typing and provides satisfying sound feedbacks. Keyboards with these type of switches are best suitable for professional secretaries and heavy typists.

The downside to this keyboard switches is that the clicky sound can be annoying to co-workers or family members. Cherry MX Blue is among the most popular clicky switches.

Other switch manufacturers and brands include:
Razer Green Switch, Razer Orange Switch, Kailh Black/Red/Blue/Brown switches, Romer-G Logitech, Steel Series QSI, etc.

Kinds of Keyboard Designs

Keyboards are not all the same, so many keyboards come in different layouts beyond the standard QWERTY letter key. Programmers for instance usually opt for DVORAK keyboard layout. You should be mindful of the letter key layout when you are about to get a new keyboard.
Mainstream keyboard, the standard regular keyboard has 104 keys and its layout is QWERTY. It could be mechanical or membrane type keyboard. Other keyboards include:

Gaming Keyboard

Gaming keyboard

Gaming keyboard

This keyboard has incorporated specific keys designed to assist in playing computer games. Some of the keyboards offer features such as backlighting and programmable function keys. Best gaming keyboards are mechanical keyboards.

Ergonomic Keyboard

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Ergonomic keyboard is designed to put your hands in neutral position as you type. This keyboard’s features can range from padded wrist rest, a key layout that is sculpted to curve and slop or split designs. The advantage of this keyboard is that it provides less strain on your hands, fingers and wrists and also reduces carpal tunnel syndrome for users. The keyboard is built with the view of ergonomics – comfort. This keyboard is the best for heavy typists or professional secretaries. There are regular flat keyboard designs optimized for ergonomics.

Left handed Keyboards

Left handed keyboards are designed to be used by people who prefer to type with their left hand, either because left hand is their dominant hand or because of accident or injury on their right hand. This keyboard has the numeric pad and arrow keys arranged on the left side of the keyboard. Left handed keyboards are optimized for left handed users. It’s a form of ergonomic keyboard and its available both in mechanical and membrane keyboards.

Multimedia Keyboards

Entertainment keyboard

In addition to regular keys, a multimedia keyboard has multimedia keys and buttons. These extra keys include: Play, Pause, Previous, Next, Volume Up, Volume Down, Mute and Speed button to launch media. Some also come with buttons that launch a browser, my computer and calculator.

Wireless Keyboard

Wireless keyboards don’t require cable to connect to a PC. It connects to a PC via an RF connection to a tiny USB dongle, or via a Bluetooth connection with no dongle required. Most wireless keyboards that use USB dongles transmit over the same 2.4GHz wireless frequency used by cordless phones and WiFi routers. Because it does not use or require a cable connection, wireless keyboards offer flexibility and cluster free desk. It works with range of devices that support Bluetooth; from smartphones, tablets, to your TV.

Laptop Size Portable Keyboard

Laptop size portable keyboards are smaller in size. Their keys are reduced and the space between keys are less than spaces in regular sized keyboard. Most of this keyboard design don’t have numeric pads and some function keys are incorporated with other keys on the keyboard. This keyboard best serve as a mobile keyboard.

Foldable Keyboards

Foldable keyboards just like their name implies are designed to be folded for easy mobility. Some of them are made with silicon membrane and can come in many different designs. Some foldable keyboards offer all 104 standard keys, while some others offer shorter keyboard layout size with some function and characters incorporated to other keys.

foldable keyboard

Foldable keyboard

CONCLUSION

Choosing a work keyboard depends mostly on your budget and preference. Observe each keyboard’s pros and cons carefully before making a choice.
Mechanical keyboards offer faster, more accurate and satisfying typing, better ergonomic and durability. These keyboards don’t come cheap, but they are worth the price.
Membrane keyboards are cheaper in price and they offer some level of quality in ergonomics, wireless and portable options, but they are not as high quality as mechanical keyboards.
Having a quality keyboard can make a huge difference in your computing life.

Credits:
Images: via Cherry MX, HHKeyboard, Corsair, Logitech
Videos: Techradar via Ergonomictrends.  I appreciate their resources.

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Article written by Ifeanyi Okey

Ifeanyi is a business developer and a Web designer. He is an experienced Systems Integrator. Ifeanyi loves to share his knowledge and experience in both his tech career and business journey.

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